Every year, I take a look back at the books I read throughout the year to pick some of my favorites. I have a hard time ranking the books because each stands on its own for different reasons. Therefore, my list of nine books is broken down into a few categories. Also, my reading list in 2014 was littered with young adult novels, so many of the books listed below are young adult. In 2015, I plan to read more outside the YA genre and also read more nonfiction. Finally, my list below is from books I read in 2014, not books that released in 2014.
My Favorite Book of 2014
Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson - This was an easy favorite to choose for me. I love fantasy, and the writing is brilliant.
Here's my review: The only disappointing part about Words of Radiance was knowing the next book in the series won't be out until Fall of 2015. Words of Radiance is the 2nd in the ten book epic fantasy series titled the Stormlight Archive. Words of Radiance is perhaps the best book I will read this year, and better than its predecessor. Whereas The Way of Kings focused almost entirely on world building and character development, the second book dives into story and action. But the world building continues in breathtaking fashion with more depth and layers added to the main characters as well. Since I knew what I was getting myself into, I didn't mind the length at all, and the pacing of the story was great. I often had to force myself to shut off the Kindle every night to get sleep. If you like epic fantasy and haven't read the Stormlight Archive yet, do yourself the favor and start reading.
Series I loved in 2014
The Matt Archer Series by Kendra C. Highley - I read all five books of this series in 2014 and loved them. Matt Archer is a young adult urban fantasy series. The series is action packed, funny at times, and heart wrenching at other moments.
Here's my review of Redemption, the conclusion to the series: With Redemption, Kendra Highley did something great–she finished a young adult series well. The storyline is tied up by the last chapter. Even though you want to see more from the characters, you don't need it. The story is complete.
If you have read the previous Matt Archer novels, Redemption follows the same pattern. It has plenty of action, but humor laced in the dialog to ease the tension. By book five, you are rooting for the characters so it's tough to lose any of them, but it's an epic battle of good vs. evil, and Highley isn't afraid of characters making the ultimate sacrifice.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone Series by Laini Taylor - I would classify this series as one that surprised me. I didn't expect to enjoy a book about devils and angels as much as I did. The first book in the series is a love story, but the series moves beyond the love story into a complicated tale of war and two worlds wrapped up in it. The real beauty of this trilogy is the writing. Taylor's prose is breathtaking and reason enough to read the books.
The Final Formula by Becca Andre - The Final Formula series is fun. I love reading these books because they are a great mix of fun and laughs with action and tension. I've read the first two novels and the two novellas. The first novel is free so check it out.
Here's my review from second full-length novel in the series. The Blood Alchemist is the follow up to The Final Formula, and just like the first in the series, this book is very enjoyable. The book is packed with explosions, magic, and murders. Addie, an alchemist, works with her element friends to solve the seemingly random murder of magical people using bullets designed by Addie. Throughout the mystery and action, the character relationships continue to develop and evolve, and I really enjoy the snappy dialog between the characters.
Young Adult Books to Tug on Your Emotions
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson - My review is below. I adored this novel as an adult who loves reading young adult. My only concerns of the book dealt with the intended audience of this book. But, the story is so good. So Good.
Here's my review: I loved The Sky is Everywhere, Jandy Nelson's debut novel, so I was excited to read this one. It didn't disappoint. The story is stunning. I adored the dual point of views from the varying time periods. I also liked the element of mystery to the novel and figuring out exactly what happened to Noah and Jude. But most of all, I loved the story of Noah and Jude. It was so good. I did feel a little bogged down with the long chapter lengths (especially since it's YA), and some of the quirky language. I also wonder if teens are truly the target audience of the book. It just didn't sit with me as a novel teens will flock to reading. Maybe too literary? Either way, I liked it. You probably will too.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - I'm waiting for this one to be made into a movie.
Here's my review: I'm sorry it took so long for me to read this book. It's been on my to-read list for awhile, and I finally got an audio book copy through overdrive. I don't do audiobooks often–I simply enjoy reading more than listening, but Eleanor & Park was a great audiobook. The narrators were fantastic. I loved the dueling point of views. It really added depth to this book. Eleanor and Park are adorable and their love story is much different than many of the YA books I've read. I don't want to give too much away, so just read the book.
The Most Imaginative Book
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman - The Ocean at the End of the Lane is my first Neil Gaiman book. It won't be my last! First, his writing is stunning. He is able to create beautiful pictures with his words without bogging the page down with big words and long sentences. I could read it over and over simply for this reason. With its 7-year-old protagonist and shorter length, the book reads more like a kids' or YA book. (Think Narnia or A Wrinkle in Time) But I loved the imagination of the story and how it addressed themes of sacrifice, loss, and good vs. evil.
An Oldie but a Goodie
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak- The Book Thief is a book that has been on my to-read list for a long time, but I kept putting it off because it was another WWII book. I listened to the audio book version of The Book Thief, and I found myself drawn in right away. It was a refreshing change of pace from some of my recent reads. I loved Death as the narrator, and the author using Death to create an omniscient point-of-view. I loved the theme of the power of words, and the questions the novel brings up about morality, war, our words, and more. The Book Thief is a worthy read for teens and adults.
My Favorite Book on Writing of 2014
Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer - Wonderbook is a great guide to help creative writers (especially those in the fantasy or sci-fi realms). The book is very dense–I will need to read through sections a few more times. But it's worth buying a copy and keeping around the house if you are a writer. I especially loved all the illustrations and visuals throughout the book.